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Belarus to use SMS draft notices, increase penalties for non-attendance

Belarus to use SMS draft notices, increase penalties for non-attendance Illustrative photo (Photo: Getty Images)
Author: Daria Shekina

There are plans to introduce a new type of military draft notice for conscripts in Belarus, in addition to the traditional paper notices, which will be sent via SMS. There will also be increased accountability for those who fail to appear at military enlistment offices, according to a relevant draft law published on the National Legal Internet Portal of the Republic of Belarus, as well as the Belarusian news agency Zerkalo (Mirror).

The draft law On Amendments to Laws on National Security was adopted by the Chamber of Representatives and approved by the Council of the Republic of Belarus. Among other provisions, it includes amendments to the On Military Duty and Military Service law.

Introduction of SMS draft notices

"Citizens can be notified of their obligation to report to the military commissariat (a separate unit), the Committee of State Security in the region using SMS notifications," the document states.

Telecommunications operators will be required to send SMS notifications based on lists provided by the military recruitment offices and the State Security Committee. They must also provide information on the subscriber numbers of conscripts within one week and "ensure notification of network subscribers via SMS messages."

Citizens are required to inform the military commissariat of any changes to their personal phone numbers.

In addition, SMS messages may be used to summon individuals for mobilization and mobilization-related events.

Paper notices under signature may be delivered not only to the place of residence but also to the place of employment and the "place of stay" of the conscript.

Elimination of non-receipt of notices as a legal option

The approved Belarusian parliament draft law introduces the concept of "legally significant notification." It will be considered delivered even if it was sent by mail or electronic means (SMS, email, messenger), but the recipient, "under circumstances dependent on them," did not receive or acknowledge this notification. In practice, this means that avoiding receipt of such notifications will be impossible.

Strengthened penalties for failure to report to a military recruitment office

The draft law also includes amendments to the Criminal Code and the Code of Administrative Offenses regarding conscription. Instead of a two-year restriction of freedom or a fine, arrest, or community service for evading military service, individuals may now face three years of imprisonment or "chemical castration." Fines are also proposed to be increased significantly.

When the new provisions might take effect

The draft law is not yet available on the website of the Chamber of Representatives and may be introduced in the near future. The law must be approved by the Council of the Republic and signed by the self-proclaimed President Alexander Lukashenko. It will take effect one year after its official publication.

It is worth noting that last year, the Belarusian military command conducted exercises to test the readiness for mobilization in several regions. In February 2023, Lukashenko stated that Belarus had not declared and did not plan to declare mobilization, but he did not conceal that the country was preparing for a possible war.